Jim Chaney talks about Justin WorleyTennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney talking about new starting quarterback Justin Worley after Wednesday's practice.
KNOXVILLE — If he was dealing with any frustration, Da'Rick Rogers was hiding it well.
Tennessee's star receiver, the lone third of the Volunteers' talented offensive trio of quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Justin Hunter that's not out with an injury, spoke to the media for the first time in more than three weeks after Wednesday's practice.
The Calhoun, Ga., native was his typical entertaining self, talking about his challenge with the role as UT's top offensive playmaker and his newfound passion -- yoga.
"No no, not at all," the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rogers said of his perceived frustration with this season. "Second-session classes started, [I've] been getting focused in school, earlier classes like 12 o'clock. We also got a new quarterback in. Just making sure we've got everything straight in house before I came out and said too many comments on anything.
"Now we're working on getting [Justin] Worley right for the game this Saturday."
In the two games since Bray went down, Rogers was the only UT receiver with a reception, catching five passes for 95 yards in losses to top-ranked LSU and second-ranked Alabama. Quarterback Matt Simms completed just 14 passes in those two games, and the freshman Worley will start the Vols' home game against 14th-ranked South Carolina on Saturday night.
Since Hunter went down with a season-ending knee injury against Florida last month, Rogers has seen increased attention from opposing secondaries, which has caused him to become visibly frustrated at moments in games. He said UT's coaches have spoken to him about his body language.
"Things are going to happen," Rogers said. "We're trying to fix things and make it easier for everybody. Good and bad things are going to happen, you've just got to go with the flow of the game. You've got to keep your emotions under control."
If Rogers was truly frustrated or affected by the absence of his two teammates and buddies, his practice performance likely would suffer, but that hasn't been the case. On one occasion last week after another receiver ran a route incorrectly, receivers coach Charlie Baggett had Rogers, who had just finished his rep, run it again as an example.
"Da'Rick's been very good," Baggett said. "He's even practicing harder now that he knows that he has to step up and take a lot of the responsibility, the leadership role and the pass-catching role when it comes to critical situations."
Baggett added that he and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney have to help Rogers get open by moving him around within the offense so defenses can't hone in on him too much.
Meanwhile, Rogers has helped himself by finally acting on a desire to do yoga he's had since high school, when he saw its effects during a visit to North Carolina State.
"They had guys, D-lineman doing the splits," Rogers recalled. "I was like, 'Wow, I wonder how they did that?' They said it was, 'Do the yoga.' I was like I've got to get into yoga one day."
A yoga class at UT has given Rogers that chance, though he's still looking for his own mat.
"I didn't know about that until you guys just told me," Baggett said with a smile. "I think it's a good thing. I've heard a lot of pro guys do it, and I've heard a lot about it. Hopefully it'll help Da'Rick."
The Worley Way
With Worley running the show, UT's offense likely will look different than it did under both Bray and Simms. How different that will be, though, remains to be seen given that Worley has taken just five collegiate snaps and never thrown a pass in a game.
"We're not going to be able to do some of the things we do with Tyler, but we weren't really where we wanted to be even with Tyler," Dooley said. "Every quarterback does things differently. There was a lot more stuff we could do with Matt in some areas, but not in other areas. There's a lot of stuff we can do with Tyler in some areas, not in others.
"I think it's the same way with Justin, but we're not going to dial it back to where it's so simple you don't have a chance. We're going to go out there, and he's been running these plays since January. He's got to go out there and execute."
Linebacker Herman Lathers, who's not played this season after brutally fracturing his ankle in June, remains out indefinitely. Lathers has jogged around the practice field during practice the last few weeks with his ankle heavily wrapped, and the junior did some light sprinting on Wednesday.
"I hope it's soon -- we need him," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "It's kind of week to week. About two weeks ago we were a little disappointed he wasn't progressing, and last week he made a big jump. A lot more cutting, and we kind of discuss it every week.
"I'm not sure how quickly he can get in there and do anything. I mean, he hasn't done anything. I'm not sure he could help us."
Lathers has redshirted, so if he were to fully miss this season, he could use a medical hardship to apply for a sixth year of eligibility. But that can't be done until after next season.
Wearing a noncontact jersey, linebacker Curt Maggitt (calf) was limited during the open part of Wednesday's practice, and Dontavis Sapp practiced with the first team at the freshman's outside linebacker spot ... Devrin Young was out of his non-contact jersey and practiced on Wednesday ... Marlin Lane was fully dressed, but the freshman tailback did very little during practice.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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